George Budd

Ford Park Cemetery

Here’s our third article from Ford Park Cemetery about health-related figures whose graves can be found there.

We owe most of our first hand knowledge of George Turnavine Budd to Arthur Conan Doyle who wrote about him in his autobiography and devoted the better part of a whole novel to him, that novel called “The Stark Munro Letters”. In both works, Conan Doyle refers to Budd as Cullingworth.

George Budd was the son of a Bristol doctor. He took his medical degree in Edinburgh where he met Arthur Conan Doyle. George returned to Bristol where he started his practice and played for Clifton Rugby Club. The Clifton RFC web site contains the only known photographs of George Budd. His medical practice in Bristol was not a success and George came to Plymouth where he set up his practice using highly unorthodox methods.

In 1882 he contacted his friend Conan Doyle and offered him a partnership in his Plymouth practice. Doyle had only recently qualified so welcomed the opportunity. Budd met Doyle at the railway station with a carriage and pair and a coachman who asked George which of his houses he would like to be driven to. He actually had three at that time, none of them properly furnished. In fact the big house on the Hoe had 30 empty bedrooms.

The rooms that were furnished were luxurious and George’s business seemed to be thriving. Budd’s consulting rooms were at 1 Durnford St which at that time was a highly fashionable area. Every room was full of patients and George’s success was down to three main ingredients. First he gave free consultations. Patients only paid for their medicine or they could pay if they wanted to jump the queue. Also he bullied his patients savagely, yelling at them to shut up and even cursing and hitting them.

A couple of examples of his style:

On Doyle’s first day he saw Budd throw out a fat middle aged man with the words: “You eat too much, drink too much and sleep too much. Knock down a policeman and come again when they let you out!”

Another patient who dared to say that she suffered from a sinking feeling was told that if the medicine didn’t work she should swallow the cork of the bottle as cork was a great help when you are sinking!

So from this you might think that the second element of Budd’s success was down to a rudimentary but shrewd psychology.

The third was a boldness in the use of drugs which would probably not find favour today but which effected some remarkable cures which local gossip elevated almost to the status of miracles. In truth he didn’t really know a great deal about the effects of the drugs he administered and some critical remarks at coroners’ inquests set his meteoric rise into a swift decline.

But by then Conan Doyle had departed after an unfortunate incident when Budd opened some of Doyle’s letters from Doyle’s mother which contained unfavourable references to Budd. His suspicious nature led him to fear that he was being poisoned and at meal times he surrounded himself with a minature laboratory to test every dish he ate.

George was married to Kate and they had five children including a son, William who died at just 5 days old. William was buried at Ford Park in May 1888 and his father joined him at the age of 34.

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